Kathleen G. Kane - Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General - Protecting Pennsylvanians

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Store Returns and Gift Certificates

Before you buy a product or gift certificate from a store, it is important that you familiarize yourself with some basic facts that can help you in your future purchases. Once you purchase an item from a seller you have entered a legal contract and it may be too late to change your mind.

A major misconception some Pennsylvania residents have about stores and sellers is that they have to take returns, particularly if you have a receipt. This is untrue. Make sure you check the store return policy before buying any product; this could help avoid future headaches. The store return policy should give you enough information for you to make an informed decision on whether to buy the product or not.

One of the most popular gifts to give and receive are gift certificates. These gifts have become popular because they cut down on the shopping hassle, give the receiver a shopping choice and can be used at the convenience of the gift receiver. Unfortunately, your gift certificate may have been lost in a pile of papers or shoved in the back of your wallet only to be discovered later as expired. The Attorney General says that if this has happened to you, do not throw it away. Recovering the loss may be possible.

There is no law in Pennsylvania that requires gift certificates to have an expiration date. As a result, you may purchase a gift certificate from one business that expires in two years and another that does not state any expiration date. Depending on the business, expiration dates will vary. Therefore, it is your duty as the consumer to ask the seller about an expiration date and decide whether the amount of time is acceptable. If you discover your certificate has expired contact the business. Often a business will still honor the certificate.

Under Pennsylvania law, businesses must report unredeemed gift cards to the Pennsylvania Treasury two years after their expiration date, or if they only have service fees, but no expiration, five years after the date of issuance. Gift cards with no expiration date and no service fees are not reportable to Treasury as unclaimed property.

Consumers holding gift cards with expiration dates or service fees can visit Treasury?s Web site  to search the Unclaimed Property database or call toll-free (800) 222-2046. The Pennsylvania Treasury has received nearly $8.6 million in unclaimed gift card proceeds and is currently seeking the rightful owners.

To file a consumer complaint, contact the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection at 1-800-441-2555.